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Meet a new invasive tick: the Asian longhorned tick

Adult female Asian longhorned tick.
  Photo credit: U.S. National Tick
Collection Institute for Coastal Plain
Science Georgia Southern University
An advantage of winter and its cold weather is there are certain pests for which we do not have to worry about until spring. At the top of this list is ticks. However, to remind us that trouble is never far off, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a news release, to warn of a rapidly increasing threat from a new invasive tick, the Asian longhorned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis.

A serious pest

Originally from China, Korea, Japan, and other areas of east Asia, the Asian longhorned tick is a serious pest because it can vector many different diseases to not only people but also to pets, livestock, and wild animals.

Asian longhorned ticks can also reproduce without mating, a real time saver, allowing them to produce particularly large numbers of offspring, up to 2,000 eggs at a time.

This invasive tick has since spread to New Zealand and Australia where it is a significant pest on cattle. There are times when Asian longhorned ticks have become so abundant on livestock that they have reduced the production of dairy cattle by 25%.

A relatively new U.S. visitor

Closer to home, Asian longhorned ticks were first reported in the U.S. in New Jersey in 2017 where they were found infesting a sheep (over a 1000 ticks were found on the animal). When reexamining preserved tick collections, Asian longhorned ticks were discovered to have been present in the U.S. since at least 2010!
Asian longhorned tick nymph (left)
and adult female.  Photo credit: CDC

By October 2018, further surveys found Asian longhorned ticks in eight additional states: Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Because tick sampling is challenging, it is very possible that Asian longhorned tick is also present in other states.

Fortunately, this invasive tick has not been found in Minnesota so far, although entomologists and health specialists here are very concerned and are alerted for its presence.

The current concern

The good news is that so far, Asian longhorned ticks have not been found to vector any disease in the U.S. Of course they can still produce large numbers and still be a problem for animals. There is much to learn about Asian longhorned ticks. What will we find out about it in the future and what will this mean to Minnesotans? Stayed tuned for updates!

See also the CDC’s What you need to know about Asian longhorned ticks.

Author: Jeff Hahn, Extension Entomologist
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